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The New Guy

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Videos of Titania turning down Malvolio became the main topic of every group chat in Illyria within a few minutes. They were turned into memes within the next hour. Feste was really proud of their part in it. Both Maria and Toby sent them congratulatory texts as soon as the videos started popping up. But they weren't entirely satisfied with the way the night was going.

By the time they got off the stage, Nick had left, and so had Oberon, obviously in Titania’s company. Feste had seen Cesario around earlier, but couldn’t find them either. So they had to be content with the fact that some of those first timers wanted to talk to them and buy them drinks.

They got home in time to watch the sunrise from the top of the hill. Toby was sitting there with the boys, and they were all talking about Malvolio, laughing, and doing their best impressions of Titania’s “I don’t know you.”

Toby hugged them. “Those videos?” He did a chef’s kiss.

Feste laughed, despite their exhaustion. “Huge success,” they agreed, too tired to form a complete sentence, and yawned.

Toby let go of them. But then the boys checked their phones again, only to laugh loudly, and stop Feste from going inside, showing them a four-panel comic of Titania and Malvolio by an anonymous artist. Feste was glad Maria’s non-lethal revenge was such a success, but they didn’t stay long with Toby and the guys. It was late, and they wanted to go to bed.

By the time they woke up, Toby and Maria were clearly having a celebration of some kind. They were drinking and dancing, and they couldn’t stop giggling. Feste only meant to cross the room and leave, but the two of them invited them to see something with a certain urgency.

Maria showed a video in her laptop, but Feste had seen that video the whole night, and wasn’t impressed about it anymore. “He doesn’t see it,” Maria told Toby, and they both laughed. “Check the comments.”

Feste did as told, and realized for the first time that they were on Twitter, which was, like most social media, a big no no for Maria. “It got out?” They shouldn’t be so surprised, the event itself had been advertised there. But Maria, who was known for punishing the boys for posting selfies with their guns, didn’t look bothered at all.

“Just look at what they’re saying.”

The tone of the comments wasn’t what Feste expected at all. People weren’t making fun of Malvolio’s looks, they were discussing him carrying a gun when he was off-duty, and his overall behaviour towards Titania. Feste had to go back to the video, and look for the moment you could see Malvolio was armed, and finally found it. They checked the numbers, and saw it was getting a lot of attention.

“Can you use that against him?” they asked Maria.

The couple laughed. “It’s a lot of negative attention,” Maria shrugged. “Let’s hope Duke gets annoyed at Malvolio this time,” Toby added.

Feste left the room feeling hopeful, and sat by the swimming pool, to go through their phone. In the group chats, people were still sharing pictures and videos of the event, as well as a few others sharing artwork made about Titania and Malvolio. On Twitter, Oberon had shared a video of Feste playing with Robin and Dodo, and most of the comments were about the more famous members of the trio, but some of them asked who Feste was, or simply said nice things about them, which was their favorite reading.

They also had a few private messages from people who wanted them to play at their events. Some just wanted to invite them to their parties, and the best one in that batch was Tambourine Joe’s personal invitation to his house, next friday night. They knew how those things worked, Joe hardly ever had to invite new people to his house, they would get there on their own. But an invitation from Joe himself? That was a whole other level. They took a screenshot of it and sent it to Nick. He would be happy for them.

Nick replied by saying he somehow had made it to the mountains in his car. When Feste asked why he had even tried in the first place, Nick sent them some emojis laughing in embarrassment, and then his answer: “Oberon’s friend, Peter Quince, kept telling me about this little town where ufo sightings are frequent, and one thing led to the other, so now we’re here.”

“You went looking for ufos together the day you met? He must be your soulmate!”

“We’re working on our own sci-fi screenplay, and it’s going great.”

Feste laughed and shook their head. It looked like Nick had found someone whose weirdness complemented his own. They were happy for him, of course, but it only reminded them that the hope of running into Cesario during the festival had gone nowhere. Feste had caught a glimpse of them during the main event of the night, but not when they left the stage.

Maybe they should just knock on Cesario’s door, and talk to them. It had been long enough, they surely had forgiven Feste by that point. So they went out. The boys at the gate were still talking about Malvolio, laughing at what they described as the rich kids biting his head off on Twitter. Feste joined them for a little while, but after smoking a joint or two, they suddenly remembered what they actually meant to do.

They left the guys, and made the way downhill. Feste was almost there when one of the kids playing outside tagged them, saying “You’re it,” and the others started screaming at their approach. So they had to show those little monsters what twenty-one years of tag experience meant, and chased them around, herding the unsuspecting screamers to a dead end.

Feste was hardly recovered from all the running, when their phone started ringing. Oberon was going to hang out with some of the people behind the event he wanted Feste to play at, and he thought they should come along. That changed their plans entirely.

Oberon was still in Titania’s company when they met. Feste got in his car, and they headed to a seafront maisonette, where a small get together was happening. There was a lot of scotch being drunk in that place, and Feste didn’t want to feel left out, so they drank their share.

Feste was introduced by Oberon to some of his friends as “the one I told you about,” which they supposed was a good thing. He was eager to introduce them to his friend Theseus. “He’s the big money behind the Faerie Experience,” Oberon whispered, as they walked towards him. Feste shuddered, trying to imagine what someone like Oberon considered big money.

Theseus, however, didn’t pay them much attention. He was busy throwing longing glances at a tall woman across the room. “Is that Hippolyta? The Hippolyta?” Titania asked, in awe. “That’s her,” he confirmed. “Oh, my god! She’s so cool! I’ve been following her for years” she told Oberon.

“Let’s say hello to her,” he suggested. Titania let out a nervous laugh, and nodded. “Ok, let’s go.”

“Wait, you guys are just going to walk to her and say hello?” Theseus asked, as if there was something absurd about the idea. “Of course,” Oberon said, with a shrug. “I’m going with you,” he decided, like it took him a lot of courage to do so.

Feste had to use all their will power not to laugh in Theseus’s face. They knew they were supposed to suck up to Theseus, after all, he was the big name behind Faerie Experience, but it was so obviously not the time for that. Instead, Feste left those three talking to Hippolyta, and decided to find a drink for themself.

They sat with a group who was singing along to an old song one of them played on the guitar. When the song was over, another one of the kids got the guitar, playing a different old song the others sang to. It worked like that for a while, until the guitar got in the hands of the guy sitting next to Feste. He started playing Bach.

The group protested. “Just play Wonderwall, Lysander!”

“Wait, this is really good,” he insisted, playing on.

The others cheered very loudly when he was done, making sure to let him know it was because it was over, not because they liked it. “Oh, come on! I just want to make it more of a challenge,” he defended himself.

Feste took the guitar from him. “I’ll take your challenge,” they said, and decided to show off a little by playing Assanhado. Feste knew the song even in their sleep, it was one Robin had taught them long ago, and therefore played it with ease. Despite the lack of lyrics and the profusion of chords, the bouncy song was much more well received than Bach, and Feste also played a lot more confidently than Lysander, who stared at them with murder in his eyes. They suspected, when they passed on the guitar, that it was time to find another drink.

There was a bottle of scotch practically unattended, on a small wooden table, removed from the rest of the crowd. A guy sat alone, so focused on rolling up a joint, he didn’t even look up at Feste. “I’m taking some of this scotch, if that’s ok,” Feste told him. “Sure,” he said, still not looking up.

Feste put a generous amount of drink in the glass, and noticed the guy had made no progress at all in his task. “Do you need help?” they offered, slightly impatient at how difficult he made it look. The man finally looked up at Feste. His eyes were huge and his teeth were gritted. “You’re just going to rip that paper,” they said, recognizing those traits immediately. “Here, let me do it.”

“Thanks,” said the man, stretching out a shaky hand to give Feste the stuff. “I feel like I’ve been here forever trying to do that, and just can’t remember how. I swear I do it all the time, and it’s easy, but Theseus was all like, ‘just a drop, it’s cool,’ and now I can’t remember how to fucking roll a joint. It’s unbelievable!” Feste laughed at how fast the guy could speak, and laughed even harder when he started repeating “unbelievable,” over and over, as if the word sounded funny.

“Here.” They handed him the joint, and got their laughter under control. The guy started going through his pockets, making that, too, look like a harder process than it had to be. Feste offered him their own lighter to make things easier.

The guy took a few drags, and offered it to Feste. “That song you played on Lysander’s guitar? Was that jazz? It hits you like,” he threw his head back and forth, in a whiplash, “and then it goes,” he moved his arm like a snake, his hand going up and down, as the snake’s head.

Feste laughed again. “I know a milion songs that are more like a snake than that one.”

“You don’t know a milion songs,” he said, shaking his head. “Wanna bet?” The guy looked confused. “I bet I know a milion songs,” they insisted. The guy creased his forehead. “You don’t know a milion songs,” he insisted.

“If you’re so sure, let’s make a bet. I’ll play a milion songs, and you'll keep count, whoever gives up first, loses.”

The man finally understood the absurdity of Feste’s proposition, and started laughing. “No, I don’t want to bet,” he shook his head. He stood up. “I want to go to the beach. You want to come?”

Feste shrugged, and took a walk with their new friend, whose name was Phil. They trudged over the fine sand, talking about music and how high Phil was, exchanging stories in a little competition to see which one could tell the most embarrassing drunk story featuring themselves. It wasn’t clear who won, but it was nighttime when Feste realized how long they’d been outside with Phil.

"My glass is empty, I need a refill.” They didn’t ask him to come along, but he followed, anyway.

Their conversation went back to the subject of music, when they walked by Lysander, who was playing, of all songs in the whole wide world, The Girl From Ipanema. Feste facepalmed, and shook their head. “You don’t like that song?”

Feste themself was surprised that they could repeat Robin’s words like their own, but it was all they could think whenever that song was playing. It was a result of years of listening to their teacher react exactly the same way, if anyone even mentioned The Girl From Ipanema.

Just as surprising was the fact that Phil looked interested in the subject. And asked follow up questions. They kept talking as the party winded down, and people started leaving. Until Titania came over to tell Feste it was time to go. “Are you coming?”

"Sure," they said, standing up.

“It was nice talking to you,” Phil said, offering his hand for Feste to shake, which they did, but very awkwardly. It wasn’t the slap of hands the guys did in Illyria, it was an actual handshake. They almost laughed.

Once they all got in the car, and drove away, Oberon started laughing without any apparent reason. “How did you make friends with Phil?” he asked Feste. “Was I not supposed to?” they asked, unable to guess on Oberon's tone any further than to say it was sarcasm.

He laughed and shook his head. “Probably the best person you could make friends with. Phil is even more difficult to impress than Theseus. If he tells Theseus you're good, you're automatically in.” Feste didn’t know what to think of it. They were too drunk to think.

The hangover of the following morning was a four out of ten, if Feste decided to be dramatic about it, which they weren't going to. They could soldier through that, all they needed was some water. As soon as they opened the bedroom door, the music got to Feste’s ears like a caress. They crossed the hallway already sure Robin was playing in the living-room.

“Good morning,” they said. Robin nodded, smiled at them,and kept playing. Feste brought a bottle of water from the kitchen back to the living-room, and sat with the old man. “Good to see you,” he said, once the song was over, putting his guitar down. “How was the party?”

Feste shrugged. "It wasn't much of a party."

“The boy said you had to meet those people.”

They nodded, and drank another glass of water. “Oberon says I made friends with the most difficult one, so I guess that’s a good thing?” They weren't sure about that, and when their teacher laughed, they doubted it even more.

“Difficult people!” he laughed some more. “And what are we?”

“I’m not difficult!” Feste fake whined, making Robin laugh even more.

He picked his guitar up again, and played another song. One about people with annoying habits. Feste chuckled. He started singing with his raspy, tired voice, so Feste came to the rescue, changing the lyrics here and there to include one of their own annoying habits, and one of Robin’s.

Feeling better after singing wasn’t anything new. They asked the old man for the guitar, and played the same song as the night before, while Robin bounced his head left and right. “That’s what I’m talking about!” the teacher said, giving them a thumbs up, that filled Feste with pride.

“The guy thought it was jazz,” Feste suddenly remembered.

Robin rolled up his eyes, and shook his head. “Well, at least you know the difference, right?” he demanded, so impatiently, Feste had to laugh at his annoyance. “Of course! You taught me, remember?”

“I know what I told you, but I don’t know what you listen to.”

Feste decided to annoy him some more. “Do you want to test me? Like an exam? I’ll do it. Ask me anything,” they dared him, with a smug smile on their lips.

“Don’t you test me," Robin told Feste, staring at them through narrowed eyes. "If I meant to embarrass you, I would let you go out there and figure things out on your own. I ask because I care.”

“You care because you'll look bad, if your student doesn’t know their stuff.”

Robin laughed. “Yes, mostly that." Feste laughed with him, and picked the guitar up again.

One song later, Robin decided: “I think it’s time we have a beer.”

Feste shrugged, and accompanied the old man outside. “Anyone ever plays music in this place?” they asked, as the two of them took their ocean facing seats.

“I don’t think so.”

“Haven’t you found a better place yet?”

The old man chuckled. “I've been busy.
All that rehearsing and going on stage. Who would’ve thought? I used to think things would stop happening at some point. Not in general, just to me, you know?”

Feste had no idea what he was talking about. “We should keep going with our trio,” they said, instead. “You, me, and Dodo. Come on! We sound great together.”

Robin laughed. “A recipe for disaster, that’s what it sounds like. Better leave it casual.”

He was probably right. Each of their rehearse sessions the week before had been made longer than necessary on account of Robin and Dodo disagreeing when it came to drinking while playing. Just thinking about it, made Feste see how “recipe for disaster” wasn’t a bad way to describe it.

“Talking about disaster, when are you going to tell me what happened after we played? Why did you have to make anyone disappear?"

Robin looked away and shook his head, but there was a smile he couldn’t fight off his lips. “It was the best for everyone involved, believe me.”

“No, I don’t believe in you. Now convince me,” Feste insisted.

“Fine, but it’s nothing you don’t already know. I was trying to keep Oberon away from Titania. For years, whenever they meet, it’s a big scene, and nobody needs that.”

“So, what’s the story with the three of you?”

“Can’t you guess, Feste? You’re smart, you don’t need me to spell it out for you.” Robin was impatient about that topic, but didn't stop Feste. “Sure, but was it like a throuple?”

“A what?”

“A couple of three.”

Robin snorted, and shook his head. “No. Well, once, but it was on a twelfth night, so it doesn’t count.”

“What’s a twelfth night?”

“People don’t do that anymore, but we used to celebrate it in the Backroom. It was great.” He sighed.

“What happened?” Feste asked. "Customs change,” the old man shrugged. “No, what happened to the three of you?”

“I’ll give the short version, and you'll stop asking about it. Deal?” Feste nodded.

“I was about your age when I met Oberon, and this happened a few years after that. His father was very rich, obviously.” Feste nodded again. “Well, Oberon was almost forty, he had never worked a day in his life, never got married, and would spend all his time and money in the Backroom, and the other bars. Of course his father threatened to disown him if he didn’t go straight, so he did. One day he just...” Robin’s voice faltered at the end of that last sentence, so he used his hands to sign “leave,” and went for his glass, draining it, rather desperately. He shrugged, and his lips twitched. “That’s why Titania married Jackass-- Nico, his name was Nico,” Robin corrected himself, and shook his head.

“But you still saw him after that, didn't you?” Feste guessed.

“Sure. He showed up for a big party a few years later, and got in a fight with Nico over Titania, I can’t remember how it ended. It became a thing. Whenever they were both in the same room, something bad happened.”

“What about you? You guys never fought?” Robin shrugged. “Titania had more reason to be upset. I knew from the start he wasn’t going to marry me.” He let out a fake laugh.

“You know what? You two should get married now.”

Robin shook his head. “Sure.”

“I mean it. Imagine how awesome!” His laugh was less dark that time. “No weddings.”

Feste signaled the waiter for another beer, and sat there with the old man for another hour, talking about everything else, until they both agreed it was enough, and parted ways.

Back in Illyria, Malvolio was still being discussed everywhere, but there was another, more recent piece of news that Monkey had the pleasure of telling them first: “Andrew is being released.”

Feste hoped there would be a big party in celebration, and started making their way uphill.

They didn’t go very far before Big Titania waved them over. They walked to her. “I have to ask you something.” Feste took a deep breath, afraid of where that was going. “I’ve been hearing the name Oberon a lot lately. Especially from my granddaughter. And this looks a lot like something I’ve seen before. Do you know what I'm talking about?"

"I guess I do," they admitted.

"Do you think I have reason to be worried?” Feste shrugged. They really had no idea, which didn't satisfy Big Titania. “Tell me, what’s this Oberon kid like? Is he a spoiled papa’s boy?”

Feste couldn’t contain a little chuckle. “Of course he is, but he’s alright. You saw what he did for the festival, that was all to impress Titania.”

“Yes, I’ve seen that before.” The old lady remained unimpressed.

“Robin told me a story, you know, about when he was young… he’s not like that. The grandson, I mean. He makes things happen. And from what Robin told me, his grandfather didn’t do anything. I like the grandson a lot better. The old man? For all I know, he’s a vampire.”

Big Titania chuckled and shook her head. “And doesn't he have the feeling he’s already seen this story play out?”

“That’s not something he would tell me. But he doesn’t seem to intrude in his grandson’s love life. I don’t know, maybe things will be different this time?” One could hope, at least.

The old lady nodded, not really convinced, saying, before she left: “Tell Robin I loved seeing him play again.”